Guidebook Title

SF Clackamas River title
(2.6 miles from the Clackamas River to the Clackamas River)

While the South Fork of the Clackamas is probably never going to be a prime kayaking run, it is a pretty cool place to be. I've hiked it and boated it and both methods take about the same amount of effort. The trip begins with a 1.5 mile hike down a nice trail though a great old-growth forest. The scenery at the end of the hike is worth the effort by itself. Once on the river be ready to grovel your way though trees, branches and other assorted wood. If you aren't comfortable boating around wood, you will spend an incredible amount of time out of your boat and probably shouldn't be on the river in the first place. About a mile into the run is the first falls. This 30 ft. falls has a tricky, curling entrance and tends to push you into the left wall at the bottom. If you want to portage, lower you boat off the lip on the right and then traverse downstream to a steep gully that takes you down to the river.

From here the gradient picks up a little but there is still a bunch of wood. There are also a couple rapids which up the fun factor a little. When you come to a short stair-step section of bedrock eddy out on the left to scout the second falls. This one also has a tricky, curling entrance but lands in a good deep pool. It is possible to portage this one by going up the left bank and then back down to the river. Jon Fowlkes and I did a throw and go which worked well.

It is only a short distance from here to the mandatory portage around the big falls. The river gets very ledgy above the falls. Be on the lookout for a runnable, concrete weir and concrete structure on the left bank. Don't go any farther downstream! There is an 8 ft. and 20 ft. waterfall before the river drops over a 100+ ft. waterfall. The portage involves hiking down a tunnel on the left. Once you exit the tunnel you'll have to cross an old log bridge or traverse along the left bank.

After the log bridge you can either go back to the river and run about a half mile of fun stuff or just continue hiking out down the trail. If you do go back to the river, be sure to be on the lookout for one last falls. This one is 60+ ft. and has been run before. After this falls it is only about a 1/4 mile to the main Clackamas River.

There is currently a ton of wood on this section although most of it isn't particularly dangerous, just annoying. If the wood ever cleared up this would be a great run for the adventurous paddler. All the waterfalls are tough and intimidating although everything has been run except the 100+ ft. waterfall. Bring a headlamp for the tunnel!

How to get there
The take-out is on a sharp left turn on Hwy. 224 about 2 miles upstream from Promontory Park or about 9 miles east of Estacada.

From the east end of Estacada, travel south on Hwy. 211 about 4.8 miles and turn left on Hillockburn Rd. Travel about 7 miles on Hillockburn Rd. to a gravel parking area on the left. This is the trailhead. There is no trailhead sign but the trail begins on an old abandoned road before turning into single-track.

More Info
Check out Jason's description of our trip.